Teachings: Sukkot – Sukkos

Feminine and Masculine Aspects of Sukkot

How might a feminal idea differ from a seminal idea?

Pass both a lulav and an etrog to tonight's guests in your sukkah. Let the person to whom it comes, if they are so inclined, reflect on the differences in the qualities of these two symbols. Allow room for humor, scent, acting, conceptualizing, and singing.

One related memory that comes to mind for me is when the women rabbinical students at the seminary where I trained (Reconstructionist Rabbinical College) were sitting together in collective sadness in a sukkah. Our sadness came from the absence of Jewish women’s history, philosophy and life-cycle rituals in both Judaism and rabbinical school.

The Sukkah Mystery Guest Experience for Families

One year while studying another of the themes of sukkot - fragility of life and concern for her ecosystems - I gave permission to the children to invite one mystery guest to dine in the sukkah each night.

First they drew numbered slips from a bowl to determine whose turn would be first.

They would decorate a chair in the sukkah as a seat of honor for the guest. Part of learning and practicing the mitzvah of "hachnassat orchim" - welcoming of guests.

A Sukkot Experience for Those Who Work in an Office

This is a guided visualization.
You can read it to yourself or
read it out loud to your congregation
or havurah or other group....

Please get as comfortable as you can in your seat.

Begin to notice your breathing (make a few audible, slow breaths so others present can join you)....

imagine it is a really nice day during sukkot.

You have made a plan to leave your office or place of work or study - to leave that strong office temple which houses your day's efforts and for a few minutes to go sit in a sukkah.

How to Make or Acquire a Simple Sukkah

This note arrived with the name "Jordan" on it and is a lovely guide to creating or finding a sukkah:

The frame can be constructed of anything: wooden two-by-fours nailed or screwed together (or bolted reusably with wing-nuts and washers); PVC or ABS plastic plumbing pipes and fittings glued together; wide bamboo posts tied together; metal electrical conduit pipe clamped together -- anything. The frame can be a permanent or temporary structure; if temporary it can be reusable or not.

Creating a More Meaningful and Memorable Sukkah Experience

Creating a More Meaningful and Memorable Sukkah Experience
Note: Also attached is a great sukkkot song by Rabbi Geelah Rayzel Raphael & a video of Rabbi Shefa Gold chanting a verse from the Song of Songs that is a perfect meditation for in your sukkah!

From Teshuvah to Sukkah: Who Is In the Minyan of Your Life?

Who is in the minyan of your life? Who is in your inner circle of friends and family?

This is one of the spiritual questions of Sukkot. While we focus on personal ethical transformation during most of the High Holy Days, Sukkot primarily takes place on our home turf, in the back yard or balcony, where we build that unique work of Jewish art - the Sukkah.

Even people who live in mansions go out into the yard and take their meals in the intentionally fragile sukkah. A sturdy sukkah is an oxymoron, in my opinion. We are taken to the root awareness of the impermanence of life deliberately by building a sukkah that can't stand all year.

While images of matters such as the earthquake disaster in Turkey bring this point dramatically into our eyes. The sukkah makes us sit in our awareness.

Symbolism in the Sukkot Rituals

There is much ripe fertility symbolism in the Sukkot rituals.

The long, quivering lulav (palm branch) speaks for itself.

One option for the etrog (lemonish fruit, a citron), is that it can be viewed as sybolic of an ovary.

What Is Ushpizin?

Inviting in the Ancestors on Sukkot
photo: Benjamin Fradin and Lena Obermann Fradin

Ushpizin is a way of inviting in of the souls of ancestors and other special figures into your sukkah.  Here is how ushpizin can be done:

1. Ask those present to think about who from the family or Jewish history that has gone on to the next level of existence, whom of these do you want to be in the sukkah with you? It’s nicest to say why you are inviting them...tell a story about them, or recall something they did that meant a lot to you, or everyone think of a question to ask the ancestor being invited in, for example, the Biblical Abraham and/or Sarah.

2. Then recite the Aramaic welcome: Tivu, tivu, ushpizin ee-lah-een, tivu, tivu, ushpizin kaddishin: (and announce): Come in, come in, honored and holy guests! (An MP3 sound file and songsheet for Rabbi Geelah Rayzel Raphael's "Tivu" song, done with the a capella group Miraj is attached.) The are seven traditional male and female ancestral guests to invite into your Sukkah (and tell their stories) from antiquity are:

The Etrog Grove: A True Love Story and Hoshannah Rabbah Teaching

The bus lines to get to Safed, Israel before Shabbat were impossible. There I was a tiny (five feet one half inch) brown haired, green-eyed, non-Hebrew speaking seventeen year-old Jewish girl, waiting in line at the central bus station in Jerusalem. If you could even call it a line - it more resembled a crowd at a rugby match.

Why Safed? In my spiritual imagination it was where wild-eyed mystics roam the streets and with a glance fill your soul with endless revelation....where artists become inspired by simply viewing the ornamented Sephardic temples and gleaming hammered metal Torah scroll cases.....where domed roofs would carry my prayers higher and deeper....